to change habits, watch energy

Change takes energy!

We changed email systems.  While I was familiar with the system we adopted,  I kept looking for, reaching for the tools of the old system, now gone.  There is the icon in my desktop tray, a not too distant memory of a way of doing things that also took time to learn.

Change is funny that way, isn’t it?  The familiarity of well-known pathways shortens, almost eliminates thinking once the habit is established.  But cutting new paths takes effort.  You have to think about every step of what you are doing until you don’t have to think about it anymore.  Then it’s a habit.

When you are working with people who are developing new ways, remember this!  You only have so much energy.  For those who are eager to change, their individual development plans can get loaded down, almost diluted with too many things.  The energy required to do them all will get depleted pretty quickly, and along with the dissipated energy goes the motivation to change as well.  There is good research out there now on this phenomenon.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you’re developing people:

1.  Keep development goals simple. 

Focus on 1-2 things only.  Look for ways to help a person grow in a strength area at the same time they are working on a weak area.  Usually, in a strength area, a person gains energy and motivation.  This can help build some capacity  and momentum for the goal that will take more focused thought and attention.

2.  Identify what kind of support or structure needed for progress.

For instance,  when I am having a hard time getting myself to exercise, just putting it in my schedule doesn’t work.  I have to commit to go somewhere and work out with someone to get it to happen.  That’s what I mean by structure.  Build the support system that can make goals attainable. Ask the person you’re developing to identify potential obstacles and address them.

3. Celebrate progress.

Whether it’s a simple notation on an index card, or stars on your refrigerator, tracking progress is motivating.  If you’re taking time to establish goals with someone, it’s doubly worth it to celebrate their accomplishment.  This builds confidence and momentum for continued change.

All that to say, change happens best in the context of relationships.  We all need the grace of God and support of each other to keep growing.  If you can keep  things simple, identify the support needed, and celebrate progress, you have some good ingredients to support personal development with those you lead (including yourself!).

What else do you do to ensure that people you’re developing are able to stay focused and make progress?

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